Geoffrey Davis Shakes Up Central Brooklyn Status Quo

District Leader Geoffrey Davis with a photo of his brother, the Late City Councilman James E. Davis behind him (courtesy of the New York Times)
District Leader Geoffrey Davis with a photo of his brother, the late City Councilman James E. Davis behind him (courtesy of the New York Times)

Newly elected 43 Assembly Democratic District Leader Geoffrey Davis is showing that like his brother, the Late City Councilman James E. Davis, he is both a shrewd political strategist and a fiercely independent voice in the sometimes stagnant world of Central Brooklyn politics.

For lost among the many achievements of James Davis legacy was his importance in breaking up the strong and powerful African-American political machine that for years had a stranglehold on Central Brooklyn politics.

That machine – for good or bad- headed by former Kings County Democratic Party boss Clarence Norman and including former lawmakers Major Owens, Roger Green, Al Vann and Frank Boyland and current lawmakers Assemblywoman Annette Robinson and Velmanette Montgomery, had for years controlled politics in Central Brooklyn.   Perspective candidates needed the machine’s blessing to run, and woe to them that tried to run independently or they would face such obstacles as the machine’s sharp young upstart attorney, Letitia James, challenge their petitions.

But when James E. Davis, a former cop that came from Norman’s district, successfully beat Norman first for district leader and then for the 35th District City Council seat, it showed a path for other independent candidates and opened the door for a more democratic process.

“What we did was break down the barriers,” said Geoffrey Davis, who worked closely on his older brother’s campaigns.  “By successfully challenging the machine it created a new dynamic helping such qualified independent public officials as Hakeem Jeffries, Eric Adams, Walter Mosley and most recently Jesse Hamilton to get into office.”

And in winning the district leadership seat in a landslide, Geoffrey, true to family tradition, has shown an ability to forge a broad coalition of various demographics to build up a powerful voting base.

“You have to believe in yourself first and foremost, and you have to be patient in politics, because timing is everything,” said Geoffrey. “I connected with the voters as Geoffrey Davis on my own terms and not as the brother of James Davis. I was connecting with the seniors, connecting with the church, connecting with the Hasidic community, connecting with the thugs on the corner and connecting with the scholars. I was connecting with every aspect of the community.”

At the same time, Geoffrey’s work in keeping his brother’s memory alive through the James E. Davis Stop Violence Foundation helped him in meeting and keeping in contact with such elected leaders as Sen. Charles Schumer, Eric Adams, Robert Cornegy, Walter Mosely, Tish James and others – all of whom were more than happy to be connected with the cause of helping the poor and fighting crime.

And along the way, Geoffrey Davis has supported and inspired other politicians on the rise such as newly elected 57th Assembly District leader Olanike (Ola) Alabi, whose hard work in the community gave her a well-earned victory against incumbent district leader Renee Collymore.

“Sometimes politicians get caught up in their own world where they begin to think that they got this whole thing figured out, and then all the dynamics change and that’s when you can make your move,” said Geoffrey.

Geoffrey noted that after his brother was shot to death in 2003 at City Hall, he was offered the district leadership, but refused out of a belief he had to earn it.

“People said Geoffrey is going to ride James’ wave when I was offered the district leadership seat, but I have never done that in my entire life. You have to work for it. We had to connect to the job from Geoffrey Davis point of view and not James Davis point of view.”

Now the past 11 years of hard political work is paying off and Geoffrey is eyeing several seats for elected office – some of which were obtained through old machine connections. A fact not lost on James Caldwell, a Central Brooklyn elder and longtime community activist who was one of the early supporters of James E. Davis.

“Geoff’s got them shaking over there, applying some of deceased brother’s ideals to keep the pressure on,” said Caldwell, adding current office holders in Central Brooklyn are now are on notice to work harder or risk losing office.